Trade unionists, blacklisted activists demand police spying inquiry
Home Secretary Theresa May has already set up an inquiry headed by Lord Justice Pitchford into allegations of police surveillance operations against activists, but its full remit is not yet known.
The inquiry has come about in response to allegations by police whistleblower Peter Francis, formerly of the Special Demonstration Squad, that during his four years working as an infiltrator of political groups he spied on member of five unions, including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
“Trade unions are the largest democratic, mass-membership organizations in the UK,” FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack told the Guardian.
“Trade unionists have legitimate concerns about police operations that may have undermined our decisions, interfered with industrial relations and led to the victimization of our elected officials.”
Wrack said an inquiry into allegations of police spying on causes such as environmentalism, the Stephen Lawrence murder case and trade unionism was “long overdue.”
Another group affected are those blacklisted by employers. Blacklist Support Group (BSG) secretary Dave Smith made an official submission to Pitchford last week regarding allegations of “collusion” between police and businesses.
“Trade unions are a perfectly legal part of civil society,” he told the Guardian.
“Why are we being infiltrated by undercover police units and why is the state sharing intelligence with big business?
“It is only because we were prepared to kick up a stink that the evidence about police collusion has slowly come to light.”
In March it was reported police spying had also been extended to Labour MPs. Francis revealed 10 Labour MPs were tailed and spied upon by British police. Those affected demanded the release of secret files kept on them.
The surveillance was carried out as recently as the 1990s when the politicians had been democratically elected to parliament.
Among the MPs targeted were prominent left-wingers and serving ministers Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Dennis Skinner. The late Tony Benn, a lifelong socialist and anti-war campaigner, was also tailed by British police.
The highest-ranking MP to have been surveilled was Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman. Speaking to Penning, she said: “I would like you to assure me that you, the government, will let me see a full copy of my file.
“I was campaigning for the rights of women, for the rights of workers and the right to demonstrate — none of that was against the law, none of that was undermining our democracy.”